Friday, December 20, 2013

The Israeli heel of Achilles

Written Dec. 17, in Dutch, by Beate Zilversmidt  for "Een Ander Joods Geluid" (A different Jewish Voice)

Europe starts at last to show some muscle regarding the aim of "peace in the Middle East." The beginnings we saw in the official exclusion of the Israeli settlements from the lucrative Horizon 2020 scientific cooperation project, formulated in a document which the government of Israel finally co-signed.

Then, there was the controversial canceling (by Holland) of festivities planned for the state visit to Israel of Dutch PM Rutte. It was about the inauguration of equipment donated by the Dutch taxpayer which quickly scans truckloads of fruit and vegetables, thus circumventing the Israeli obstacles for export from Gaza. But still the strawberries were not let through and it turned out that the obstacles were not just security considerations, as asserted earlier.

Soon afterwards - another reason to be proud of Holland: the decision by the  Vitens Company not to embark on cooperation with the Israeli water company Mekorot, which is exploiting Palestinian resources. While the Dutch government not yet blacklisted Mekorot, the Vitens directorate seems to expect that measures against business involvement with the settlements might acerbate in the future.

And today I read in Haaretz that the ambassadors of the five biggest EU states jointly visited the Israeli Foreign Ministry and warned against further plans to expand building in settlements. So far, after every positive gesture squeezed from Israel, such as releasing prisoners, the ultra-right was pacified by the Netanyahu government with building plans.

These are badly needed points of light. With an impossible Israeli government and a declining superpower America, it is the time of doom scenarios.

But ... there are also signs that the Obama rule is making the transition of U.S autocracy to the broadening of power. Without cooperation with Russia there would not have been achieved an agreement about Syria's chemical weapons, nor about Iran's nuclear process. And, apparently, Washington holds the opinion that without cooperation with Europe nothing will come of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Obama and Kerry preserve for themselves the role of "good cop" - for reasons of internal American politics. To Europe falls the task of swaying the stick.

There are those in Israel who see it coming and try to escape from Israeli isolation by strengthening ties with China. But it is a question whether that would keep Israelis happy.

It's not only academics for whom access to the Western World is a high priority. Israel's sport scene is particularly Europe oriented. So far, Israeli footballers and fans feel quite at home there. But perhaps that's where the Israeli heel of Achilles is located.